Until now, the relationship of the President of the United States to the TV had been predictable. The President made news, and satirists made fun of the President. The President did not watch the satirists because he had, um, more important things to do. Well, life comes at you fast. Today, perhaps the most reliable way to communicate with the President is to appear on a cable news show. The poor quality of these programs — especially their habit of featuring unqualified opinion in the interest of balanced reporting — has made maintaining an informed national conversation very difficult. And that was before the President was citing Joe Schmucko from Illinois! Adam Mansbach's most recent book (co-authored with Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel) is For This We Left Egypt?.
Adam Mansbach: You’re seeing Trump bandy around the term "fake news" to describe some of our most venerated, venerable, trustworthy institutions. When the president is calling anything he doesn’t like “fake news,” yeah, it dislocates the term. It dislocates the idea.
I think in general what we’re seeing is an assault on the idea that there can be objective truth, the idea that anything can stand above the political fray. And, you know, he’s seizing on that.
But it comes out of a much, you know, it comes out of the polarization that the coverage and the news media has been mired in for a good long time.
And he’s opportunistically seizing on it, but he didn’t invent it, right. We’ve been in the era for a long time now of polarized talking heads spewing venom at each other on cable news shows in what is supposed to be a fair and balanced and kind of like equal playing-field situation.
But because objectively speaking some of these people are dealing with facts and others are dealing with invented, imagined, biased nonsense there’s often, you know, creating that illusion of a balanced playing field is difficult.
Like you can turn on the news and see like, “A Fair And Balanced Discussion of Climate Change”. And like on this side we have like this dude who’s got like, you know, a doctorate in physics from Oxford and is like a triple Ph.D. in every relevant field and wrote six books, all of which won the Pulitzer Prize.
And representing the other side is like Joe Schmucko from Illinois who like thinks global warming doesn’t exist because he has a snowball in his freezer or some shit. And these people are being presented as if they have equal credentials.
So, you know, the polarization that leads to the dislocation of truth, it’s got to be – the blame for it needs to be spread around. Like it’s been going on for a good long time.
Yeah, I mean satire is an incredibly powerful tool and weapon. And I think we’re in an age where satire seems outdated. It’ll come back around, but at the moment we are living in such an absurd world.
Trump and his administration, his cabinet, his cronies defy satire because they are more ridiculous than anything that our greatest satirical minds can come up with.
So as you say we’ve moved into a phase where, you know, right now satire is not for the masses. Satire is directed only at the president. Like Alec Baldwin’s entire audience on Saturday Night Live is essentially Trump.
We’re in a moment where Trump’s own advisors are letting it be known that the way that they have to get his attention is to go on television. He won’t listen to them if they’re in the same room together. So they go on TV hoping that he will see them and listen because he apparently only pays attention to things and people that he hears on screen.
So, you know, I think there’s a very real sense in which both the satire and the entire sort of talking head infrastructure is increasingly directing itself solely at him.
It’s like, you know, this guy watches TV all the time. He gets his news, he gets his information not from intelligence briefings, not from this treasure trove of classified information that most people would be fascinated to delve into, but from the same idiots that everybody else has access to.
Maybe satire isn’t dead. That’s pretty absurd in itself. I take it back. Satire is very much alive in the form of Trump, you know, an audience of one for everything that goes on in the media.